Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Muslims implicated in false case is crystal clear, but what about the action to release them?

It’s not easy being a Muslim in India at the best of times. But when elections draw near, it’s hell. Out to prove their concern for you, politicians say and do things that make you the target of shrill, drummed-up attacks, which may not be only verbal. Muzaffarnagar, where rabble-rousing and manipulations by politicians left 49 dead and 43,000 homeless, is still fresh in our minds. 

A conservative estimate says Muslims were 60 per cent of the victims. Now comes Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s letter to Chief Ministers asking them to ensure that Muslims are not wrongly arrested in terror cases, that those framed are compensated and rehabilitated, and the policemen who arrest them are punished.

This statement is an admission that Muslims have been wrongly arrested for terrorist crimes so often that the Union Home Minister has had to acknowledge this publicly. This is a reality that cannot be wished away by the BJP’s hysterical reaction.

However, this has been a reality for a long time now. 2008 was when the country realized what Muslims already knew — that they were being arrested for crimes committed by others. That was when then Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare arrested Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya and others from the little-known organization Abhinav Bharat, for the 2008 Malegaon blasts. The reported transcripts of meetings and phone conversations between the accused left nothing to the imagination. 

Even before this, in 2006, 21 Hindus were arrested for making bombs in an RSS member’s house in Nanded, but the leads provided by that investigation were not followed up, though Shinde’s party ruled Maharashtra. Then came Swami Aseemanand’s confessions in 2010 in front of two magistrates, that his associates were involved in the Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer blasts of 2006 and 2007, in which the targets were all Muslim.

So at least for five years, the Congress-run Central government has known that Muslims are being wrongly arrested. Did Shinde’s predecessor P Chidambaram do anything about it? On the contrary.  Muslims wrongly arrested for the 2006 Malegaon blasts, already languishing in jail for four years, had to wait another year after Aseemanand’s confession, before the CBI and NIA decided not to oppose their bail applications. Both the agencies report to the Centre. 

Shinde was Home Minister when the Jamia Milia teachers released a report on 16 terror cases in which Muslims, mostly Kashmiris, had been framed by the Delhi Police Special Cell. Where’s the compensation? Leave aside an inquiry against the policemen concerned (despite the courts’ strictures against them), one of them was even awarded the President’s Gold Medal this year! 

It’s obvious therefore, where Shinde’s sudden concern for innocent Muslims is coming from. And that brings us to what’s left unsaid in his statement. Is the Home Minister implying that the police need not be told not to wrongly arrest non-Muslims for terrorist acts? Of course, such a possibility is remote, given our police’s reluctance to arrest Hindutva offenders even when their offence is committed in front of TV cameras, be it in Muzaffarnagar, Mumbai, Kandhamal (2008) or Jammu during the 2008 Amarnath Yatra agitation. But what about non-religious ‘’terror’’? An RTI inquiry by Swami Agnivesh reveals that 1,018 tribals are awaiting trial in just three Chhattisgarh jails as suspected Maoists. 

Many of them neither know why they are inside, nor can they afford lawyers. Is their pathetic condition not worth the Home Minister’s attention — despite Chhattisgarh being a BJP-ruled state — because electorally, they don’t count?

Note - (The Article first appeared in DNA newspaper on 02.10.2013 with the headline, With friends such as these, who needs enemies?)